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Visual Perception, Emotion, and Cognition Laboratory

Visual Perception, Emotion, and Cognition LaboratoryVisual Perception, Emotion, and Cognition Laboratory

Visual Perception, Emotion, and Cognition Laboratory


Principle Investigator

Timothy Sweeny

Tim Sweeny, PhD

I am an Associate Professor in DU's Department of Psychology. I received my PhD from Northwestern University in 2010. I then spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, before starting the VPEC Lab in Denver in 2013. I teach Perception, Introduction to Cog Neuro, a graduate Proseminar on Emotion, and a Matlab-based course on experimental design and computer programming. I have been an Associate Editor at Emotion since 2018, and starting in Fall 2019 I'll be the head of our department's Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience program.

Frontier Hall, Room 343, (303)-871-2191, [email protected]

** Interested in joining the crew? I will be considering graduate applications this Fall. Please email me for more information.

Graduate Students

Larissa D'Abreu

Larissa is a sixth-year graduate student in the Clinical Child Psychology doctoral program (making her a "hybrid"). Larissa is interested in automatic emotion detection and discrimination, and when those processes fail. She is currently focusing on learning more about perception using masking techniques. Larissa enjoys hiking and painting and is almost as chatty as her Dungeons and Dragons character is.


Diana Mihalache

Diana is a 4th year clinical-cognitive “hybrid” with a Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience concentration. She studies perception of nonverbal cues, including ensemble coding of facial expressions in typically-developing adults and perception of gaze direction in children with autism spectrum disorder. When not in the lab, Diana hangs out with her dog, Nietzsche, jumps out of planes, and eats cheese.

Elric Elias

Elric is a 4th year doctoral student in DU's Affective, Social and Cognitive Psychology program and the Visual Perception, Emotion and Cognition lab. He's most interested in (visual) awareness and consciousness. Elric just passed his cromps! Fun fact: Elric is a fake tough guy who drinks iced lattes.

Undergraduate Students

Kiara Allen

I joined the lab because I am very interested in both cognitive neuroscience and clinical psychology. I felt that this lab would allow me to learn more about cognitive neuroscience as it relates to perception and mental illness. In the lab, I have had a chance to gain experience running participants in an emotional perception study and entering data. Along with this, I have gotten the chance to take on the job of recruiting participants for psychology studies. In the future, I hope to pursue my education by applying for a Clinical Psychology PhD program in order to eventually become a private practice clinician, specializing in depression and anxiety. Along with this, I hope to continue conduction research in cognitive neuroscience in order to learn more about the biological processes of mental illness and develop better treatments for people suffering from them.

Victoria Baltzell

I'm interested in understanding how things we don't consciously perceive impact how we view other things (how we rate them, go about understanding them, etc.) while we don't even know we're incorporating that information. Outside of the lab, I'm also majorly interested in anything having to do with Schizophrenia (and slightly less-so disorders that involve various forms/intensities of psychosis) and how sensory information impacts that.

Alisa Braun

I am currently studying Psychology and Biology with a cognitive neuroscience concentration, and became a part of the VPEC lab to further learn about vision science and to get a taste in research. I am currently working on two projects. The first is helping with an existing project with Larissa D'Abreu on processing of facial stimuli. The second is my thesis, which investigates the processing of audio and visual stimuli integration, and whether this happens before or after conscious awareness. Using funding for the University of Denver Summer Research Grant, I will continue to work on my thesis this summer and will present my findings in the coming academic year.

Laurel Gaeddert

Laurel just completed her honor's thesis in Psychology! She's been working in the VPEC Lab for two years. In addition to her honor's work on the perception of gaze and emotion, Laurel has been managing an interdepartmental collaboration with the Mahoor Lab to evaluate how typical children and those with Autism Spectrum Disorder perceive gaze on humans and robots.

Evan Reierson

Evan is a student in DU's Ritchie School of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. Evan is leading a project investigating how visual masking and consciousness are constrained by the sizes of neural receptive fields. And when he's not doing that, he's cashing checks like a boss.

Daniel Schlehofer

I'm in the VPEC lab because I want to get more involved with Denver's Psychology community; I think this lab will also be helpful for when I attempt to pursue a PhD as these graduate Psychology programs are very research heavy, and assisting PhD students gives me a little insight as to what I can expect in the future. Currently, I'm assisting Diana with her experiments. I plan to stay in this lab throughout my undergrad and obtain a Psychology degree with a concentration in Neuropsychology. My end goal is be versed in Clinical Neuropsychology.

Dustin Weilbach

Dustin is collaborating with Danny Lumian and Dr. Kateri McRae to evaluate the dynamics of emotion discrimination and categorization during binocular rivalry. Dustin will be joining the United Nations when he graduates.

Bobichen "Beau" Zhang

Beau is working with Diana to understand how a bias to categorize faces as "angry" becomes especially strong when faces are viewed as part of a crowd. Beau hasn't eaten a carb in 3 years.